Perturbed over India’s massive outreach to Lanka, Beijing spreading disinformation against New Delhi in island nation

New Delhi: With India continuing to help the beleaguered Sri Lanka as it struggles with a shortage of food, fuel and medicines, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) keeps its focus on how to exploit the present situation to drive a wedge between New Delhi and Colombo. As its refusal to provide the island nation with any relief on interest payments continues to grab world attention, the PRC is using one ploy or the other to shift the global focus to some other issues in Sri Lanka. As part of this sinister strategy, China, which is accused of engaging in “debt trap diplomacy”, is said to be behind the conspiracy to spread fake, misleading and instigating information about India in the island nation. Top diplomatic sources said. “It’s part of China’s plot to hinder India’s relief and humanitarian assistance so that New Delhi cannot gain over it in Sri Lanka.”

The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka has to deal with double challenges due to China’s design. First, the diplomats have to deal with the public resentment resulting from one rumour or the other about India’s role in Sri Lanka. They have to quell the rumour and convince the public out there. Secondly, Indian diplomats have to ensure that help reaches the needy population of the country, sources said. “With China out of the entire show, the PRC government is worried about India stealing the show in the island nation,” sources said. As India continued to talk about people’s well-being in Sri Lanka, China tried to create confusion and misunderstanding among the public there, sources added. 

The rumours were spread on social media, saying that India is sending troops to Sri Lanka and that India helped the Rajapaksas fly out of the country. There were rumours that India was interfering in internal political processes of Sri Lanka. Sources told The Sunday Guardian that the Chinese elements were behind all this at the behest of the rulers in Beijing. But the Indian High Commission’s quick denial quelled the rumours. “Apart from issuing mere denial, diplomats worked hard to convince the people in Sri Lanka through various channels that all this has no basis. The message was also given that some force inimical to India-Sri Lanka friendship is behind the entire plot,” sources said. “India don’t exploit the situation’ was the slogan that was shouted by a section of the public on the streets of Sri Lanka earlier,” sources said.

Now, by virtue of diplomatic efforts, anti-Indian sentiments like these have subsided considerably, sources added. The statement by the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka was quite powerful as it said, “As a close friend and neighbour of Sri Lanka and a fellow democracy, we will continue to be supportive of the quest of the people of Sri Lanka for stability and economic recovery, through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework.” “The message was loud and clear for China as well, as the statement categorically expressed India’s commitment that it would ‘continue’ to be supportive of the quest of the people of Sri Lanka for stability and economic recovery,” says an official. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Neighbourhood First” pitch must have driven home the powerful message about India’s priority to ensure Sri Lanka’s normalcy.

The Modi government has decided to redouble efforts to ensure that Sri Lankans are helped out of the present crisis, regardless of any obstacle. “This has helped India to regain the confidence of the Lankans, which is annoying China as it is losing its clout in the region fast,” said a diplomat, adding that India has emerged as a top lender for Sri Lanka, providing millions in aid and sending across fuel, food, medicines and what not. What keeps Sri Lankans happy is that India is not only sending across its help and aid, but it is also working in the interest of Colombo at the IMF, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Sources said that India is working to ensure that Sri Lanka’s case in these financial institutions gets a positive response. China, in fact, was more upset when the Sri Lanka government in February last year handed over the contract to India and Japan to develop the West Container Terminal at the Colombo port. This decision deprived Beijing of the opportunity of getting a presence in the Colombo Port Terminal. Similarly, China was shifted out of three hybrid power projects of Sri Lanka due to security objections. Sri Lanka signed a pact with India this year on Indian investment in these projects in what did not go down well with Beijing. “So, with all this in view, China has been conspiring to malign India’s image in Sri Lanka,” sources pointed out. “What is a positive signal from Colombo is that the newly-elected president Ranil Wickremesinghe has in private conversation with the Indian High Commissioner expressed desire to work closely with India,” sources said. India is also taking the help of top world economists to guide Sri Lanka during these tough times.